What Happens If You Tell Your Doctor You Smoke Weed?
If you have a doctor’s appointment coming up, you may be wondering what happens if you tell your doctor you smoke weed. Will it affect your insurance? Will they report you to federal agents? Or will they just nod and move on? Don’t fret. We’ll tell you everything you need to know before seeing your doctor.
January 21, 2021
HIPAA protects your privacy
If you’re worried that your doctor is going to spill the beans of your weed smoking habit, rest assured that doing so would likely cause more problems for your doctor than you.
That’s because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. This federal statute promises that a doctor’s office will be a safe space.
Doctor-patient confidentiality is a serious topic. The information you share in confidence with your healthcare provider is meant to be kept in confidence. This is why legal recourse is available if your doctor does share your information with others.
It goes far beyond cannabis, too. Any form of drug use, from heroin to cocaine, should not result in your doctor sharing your details. If you’re worried to share that you use cannabis in a state where it is illegal, you can relax knowing that the information you share must be kept in confidence, in most cases.
Now, before stressing, remember that a doctor will not report you to the authorities just because you share information about drugs you use. There are some cases where they will have to report what you tell them, though.
This physician-patient privilege does not extend into criminal matters. Different states handle matters in their own ways, but it is important to be aware that confidentiality may be lost when other criminal matters are involved.
Doctors are also required to report severe bodily injuries and harm. If you were to have been severely harmed, they may need to share the information with others.
As a general rule, if you use cannabis in a standard manner, your doctor is not interested in reporting you or getting you in some sort of trouble. Seriously. Even the federal government advised against testing for THC when looking for illegal substances when prescribing patients pain medication.
HIPAA does not guarantee positive feedback
Unfortunately, just because your doctor is bound by HIPAA to preserve your privacy does not mean talking to them about your cannabis use will be a positive experience. While many people have had positive experiences discussing their use with doctors, others have had horrible ones.
It has been pointed out time and time again that medical professionals aren’t often taught about the potential therapeutic effects of cannabis. This means there is often a disconnect between patients and doctors in their understanding of the hows and whys of a patient’s cannabis use.
As such, discussing your cannabis use with your doctor can be hit or miss. Some doctors are willing to discuss your use further and gain a better picture of your lifestyle and needs. Some will nod and move on to the next questions and others may even offer negative feedback about your decision to use cannabis.
In anticipation of a negative response, many cannabis users will just lie to their doctor. They don’t want any disapproving looks or lectures about their lifestyle, so they instead say “no” when the topic comes up.
While it’s easy to see why this may be tempting, we always advise against lying to your doctor. Leaving information about your lifestyle out will make it more difficult for your doctor to paint a picture of your needs and appropriately help you out.
And when it comes to serious procedures like surgery, you should always be upfront about the substances you consume.
Why you should be honest with your doctor even if they seem disapproving
Unless you are involved in a criminal case or severe bodily harm to yourself or others, you are in the clear when it comes to talking about your drug use. HIPAA protects patients from their doctors sharing private information, like the consumption of illegal substances.
Even if you really don’t want to tell your doctor the truth, you should. Here’s why:
Cannabis users require more anesthesia than non-users. One study found that cannabis users needed an additional 14% of fentanyl, 19.6% of midazolam, and 220.5% more propofol for anesthesia during an endoscopy.
If you decide to leave your cannabis use out of the picture when discussing surgery with your doctor, you may end up not fully sedated during surgery. That’s enough reason for us to be honest!
In the report shared with Anesthesiology News, there was no mention of cannabis use being bad for anesthesia. Instead, it is noted that cannabis use must be considered when putting patients under anesthesia.
““The research does not suggest that people should not use cannabis,” said Mark A. Twardowski, DO, with Western Medical Associates in Grand Junction, Colo. “It just suggests that the use is not without consequences. One consequence is that more medications may be required for procedures. This increased dose may put people at a higher risk for respiratory suppression during endoscopic procedures.””
It’s not just in cases where you need anesthesia that cannabis use should be disclosed. You should always be as honest as possible with your doctor because it will lead to better, more personalized care. If you provide an incomplete picture, you may receive treatment that isn’t right for you.
The bottom line
If you’re stressing about an upcoming doctor’s visit, take a deep breath. You’ll be fine. Be honest with your doctor and prepare for less-than-positive responses. Even if your doctor responds with disdain, you have a right to confidentiality and a right to receive medical care with all of the factors in mind.
No, you will not be randomly tested for drugs at the doctor unless a drug test is required for specific scenarios. Doctors are there to provide care, not get you in trouble.
With that in mind, don’t forget to stop by Piece of Mind and stock up on all your cannabis needs!